BERGSON, HENRI LOUIS


BERGSON, HENRI LOUIS
BERGSON, HENRI LOUIS (1859–1941), French philosopher. His father, michael bergson , came from a distinguished Warsaw family; his mother from England. He was born in Paris and from 1881 taught philosophy at the Angers Lycée and subsequently at Clermont-Ferrand, where he gave his famous lectures on laughter, and where, after long meditations in the countryside, he first devised the idea of the vital, continuous, and generative impulse of the universe. From the age of 25, Bergson devoted himself to elaborating this theory in various forms. In 1889 he returned to Paris, published his Ph.D. thesis Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience (Time and Free Will, 1910), and lectured at the Lycée Henri IV and the Ecole Normale Supérieure. In 1900 he was appointed professor of philosophy at the Collège de France. His lectures were popular and were attended by the elite of Paris society. These lectures, like his books, especially L'Evolution créatrice (1907; Creative Evolution, 1911), were distinguished by their lucid and brilliant style and established his fame in France and throughout the world. In 1914 he became a member of the French Academy and in 1928 was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Bergson was also politically active, especially in foreign affairs, and headed a French delegation to the U.S. He was president of the League of Nations' Committee for Intellectual Cooperation. In 1940, after the French surrender to the Nazis, Bergson returned all his decorations and awards, and, rejecting the French authorities' offer to exclude him from the edicts against the Jews, queued for many hours to register as a Jew although he was weak and ill. In his latter years he was attracted to Catholicism but remained a Jew in order to maintain his identification with the persecuted. He died a Jew in 1941. Most of his works deal with the conception and explication of the notions of "duration" and "movement," not as static concepts defined by the mind but as experiences, conceived by the intuition when it is freed from the limitations which the intellectual consciousness imposes upon the conceiver and the conceived. According to Bergson, the dynamic element of the duration, the flowing time, is the sole penetrator of real existence. "Time" abolishes the static world of the conscious mind and the concept of "duration" may be defined as the continual change which takes place in time. This change is not transcendentally motivated but results from an inner energy – the vital impulse (élan vital) which derives from an unlimited source. The actual duration of the vital impulse is the basic element of the universe, while matter and awareness are only momentary manifestations or creations of the central stream. The consciousness can grasp the essence of reality, both in its primary purity as a duration and in its consolidation and objectification as matter in space. In the same manner consciousness can also reach self-knowledge in two different ways: through intellectual static self-consciousness, and through an intimate awareness of its essence as a conscious duration, a vital and fluctuating spirit, regenerating and developing continuously. From this it follows that the factor fashioning consciousness is memory. Memory comprises the duration for it accumulates all past achievements and within it "the past grows into the present." Through the intuition, which is the essence of the memory, man grasps his personal essence as a vital and conscious duration, and, similarly, grasps the creative duration, which is absolute reality. Bergson's view also appears in his theories on the functions of instinct, intellect, and intuition. Life evolution advances in three directions: vegetative, instinctive, and rational. The instinct is the capability of utilizing organic instruments, but this function is merely a blind practical knowledge. The intellect has the ability of execution and of utilizing inorganic instruments, and it introduces, therefore, the knowledge of the qualities of objects, accompanied by self-knowledge. When the intellect has time enough to develop its knowledge, it judges all objects as if they were inorganic instruments, thus viewing the living reality itself in a mechanical, devitalized mirror. This perverted conception can be corrected by intuition, which is a developed instinct with self-awareness. Bergson conceived the intuition as the only means by which it is possible to inject a primary flexibility into fossilized scientific methods and draw them closer to reality. Bergson recognized that the potential capability for immediately grasping reality is actualized only in a few select   men. Strong fetters of habit tie man down to the social, moral, and conceptual reality of his environment, and only an elite few are capable of extricating themselves. Therefore, Bergson admired the great mystics (see his Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, 1932; Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 1935). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A.D. Lindsay, The Philosophy of Bergson, 1911; H. Wildon Carr, Henri Bergson: The Philosophy of Change, 1912; Hugh S. Elliot, Modern Science and the Illusions of Professor Bergson, 1912; V. Jankelevitch, Henri Bergson, 1931; A. Keller, Eine Philosophie des Lebens (1914); J. Maritain, La philosophie Bergsonienne (1914); A. Thibaudet, Le Bergsonisme (1923); J. Chevalier, Bergson (Fr., 1948); A. Pallière, Bergson et le Judaïsme (1932); I. Benrubi, Souvenirs sur Henri Bergson (1942); B. Scharfstein, Roots of Bergson's Philosophy (1943); A. Cresson, Bergson, sa vie, son oeuvre (1950); R.M. Mossé-Bastide, Bergson éducateur (1955); idem, Bergson et Plotin (1959); I.W. Alexander, Bergson, Philosopher of Reflection (1957). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Gilson, L'individualité dans la philosophie de Bergson (1985); G. Deleuze, Bergsonism (1988); F. Burwick and P. Douglas (eds.), The Crisis in Modernism: Bergson and the Vitalist Controversy (1992); K. Ansell-Pearson, Philosophy and the Adventure of the Virtual: Bergson and the Time of Life (2002); L. Lawlor, The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics (2003). (Pepita Haezrahi)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bergson,Henri Louis — Berg·son (bĕrgʹsən, bĕrg sôɴʹ), Henri Louis. 1859 1941. French philosopher and writer whose popular and accessible works, including Creative Evolution (1907) and The Creative Mind (1934), largely concern the importance of intuition as a means of… …   Universalium

  • Bergson, Henri (-Louis) — born Oct. 15, 1859, Paris, France died Jan. 4, 1941, Paris French philosopher. In Creative Evolution (1907), he argued that evolution, which he accepted as scientific fact, is not mechanistic but driven by an élan vital ( vital impulse ). He was… …   Universalium

  • Bergson, Henri Louis — ► (1859 1941) Filósofo francés. Fue miembro de la Academia Francesa y premio Nobel de Literatura en 1927. Postuló una filosofía vitalista fundamentada en la intuición de los datos inmediatos de la conciencia sin las limitaciones del espacio.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bergson, Henri (-Louis) — (15 oct. 1859, París, Francia–4 ene. 1941, París). Filósofo francés. En Evolution créative [Evolución creadora] (1907) afirmó que la evolución, que aceptó como hecho científico, no es mecanicista, sino que está movida por un élan vital ( impulso… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BERGSON, Henri Louis — (1859 1941)    French philosopher whose theories of COSMIC EVOLUTION have inspired various religious thinkers and contributed to the growth of process THEOLOGY. His best known PHILOSOPHICAL work is Creative Evolution (1907) …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Bergson, Henri — ▪ French philosopher Introduction in full  Henri Louis Bergson  born Oct. 18, 1859, Paris, France died Jan. 4, 1941, Paris  French philosopher, the first to elaborate what came to be called a process philosophy, which rejected static values in… …   Universalium

  • Henri Louis Bergson — noun French philosopher who proposed elan vital as the cause of evolution and development (1859 1941) • Syn: ↑Bergson, ↑Henri Bergson • Instance Hypernyms: ↑philosopher …   Useful english dictionary

  • Henri Louis Bergson — n. Henri Bergson (1859 1941), French philosopher and writer, winner of the 1927 Nobel prize for literature …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Bergson — Bergson, Henri Louis …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bergson — Henri Bergson Henri Louis Bergson Philosophe Occidental Époque moderne Henri Bergson, Prix Nobel de littérature (1927) Naissance  …   Wikipédia en Français


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